Shop owners love to brag about the incredible tool buys they’ve made on eBay, at flea markets and at estate auctions. Like my $50 Hitachi framing nailer and $125 radial arm saw.
But most of us have also made purchases we’re less proud of, like the $100 “miracle corner clamping system” I bought at a tool show which turned out to be utterly useless for anything besides building the tiny box the salesman demonstrated at the show. Naturally, we don’t talk much about those overpriced white elephants, which is probably why these hucksters are still in business.
Then there are those purchases that fall somewhere in the middle: useful tools with staggering price tags that don’t really justify the tool’s performance. When I purchased the Tormek T7 wet grinder at the International Woodworking Show in New Jersey, I was afraid I’d made just such a buy. After purchasing the optional jigs and accessories I needed for my planer and jointer blades, knives and scissors I walked out of the convention center almost $700 lighter.
Indeed, there’s not much to this tool. It’s basically just a slow-turning motor with a couple of wheels, a plastic bath tub and a steel frame. But it does an excellent job. Over the past four years I’ve taken for granted how much it’s meant to always have sharp blades, chisels and knives in the shop.
Sure, experienced old timers can accomplish this manually with a sharening stone but it’s a skill I don’t have nor am I particularly eager to learn it with my expensive blades. There’s more to it than just rubbing a blade against a block, like maintaining the precise bevel. Get this wrong on a 12″ planer blade and you might as well toss the set and buy new ones.
That’s how I balance — or possibly rationalize — the cost of the Tormek. I was spending a hundred bucks a year on new planer and jointer blades before the Tormek but I haven’t bought a single set since. As an added bonus, I have scary sharp chisels, scissors and kitchen knives too.
In fact, if you’ve never had a knife professionally sharpened before you don’t know how sharp they can be. Perhaps for liability reasons, brand new, store bought knives are usually pretty dull by comparison.
More Tormek instructional videos are available here.